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Sports Minister submits resignation amid Tokyo 2020 stadium saga

Japan’s Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura has offered his resignation in the wake of the furore caused by the decision to open a new design process for Tokyo’s new National Stadium, the centrepiece of the city’s staging of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Shimomura, who heads the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, was speaking after an independent panel found he and other officials shared responsibility for problems with planning for the 2020 Games.

Japanese news agency Kyodo News said Shimomura told a post-cabinet meeting media conference today (Friday) that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had asked him to stay on until a cabinet reshuffle planned for next month. Shimomura is set to return half his pay for the six months through September in atonement.

“I have caused great worry and trouble to many of the people over the national stadium problem,” Shimomura said, adding that Abe had reluctantly accepted his resignation.

The original vision for the National Stadium was scrapped in July when Abe said that the price tag for the original development had become too costly at Y250bn (€1.8bn/$2bn). Abe and the government had come under increasing pressure from the public to scale back costs.

The government has begun to accept new bids for the project, which now has a budget of Y155bn. The capacity will be reduced from 72,000 to 68,000, with another 12,000 seats to be added if Japan decides to bid to host a future edition of football’s Fifa World Cup.

Tokyo 2020 has been hit with further embarrassment after it was this month forced to scrap the official logo for the Games, while refuting accusations of plagiarism levelled at its designer. Belgian designer Olivier Debie raised questions over the emblem shortly after its July unveiling, claiming it was too similar to his logo for the Theatre de Liege. Debie and the theatre subsequently filed a lawsuit at a local court having called for Tokyo 2020 to cease using the logo.